The Optimist

February 1, 2013
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Good afternugent, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m an Optimist, welcoming you to the weekly healing waters we like to call NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

Today’s episode comes to you from Ft. Detroit, where the Wine and Gold are preparing to take on a Pistons team that’s had their number.

The rivalry isn’t yet what it used to be, but before tonight’s victory, Detroit had won four straight over our beloved Cavaliers – including a 116-77 poleaxing right here in Auburn Hills last April.

But the Cavs are a different beast these days. They’ve added smart, nasty veterans and their young stars, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, are brimming with confidence. Rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller are starting to get their sea legs and all four youngsters are making the trip to Houston for All-Star Weekend.

Kyrie IrvingBut with Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond and Moose Monroe, Detroit has some young talent as well. And right now, we’re in the early stages of the rivalry’s renewal.

Just for old time’s sake – and on accounta it was already gassed up – we ditched the Team Bus for the Urban Assault Vehicle™ for Friday’s trip. Piston fans don’t hate the Cavaliers like they used to, so it’s unlikely that Luke Walton will get to use the flamethrower. But let the Wine and Gold get a couple wins in Motown under their belt. That can all change.

On Saturday, Kevin Durant and the heavyweight OKC Thunder roll into town as the Cavaliers begin a nice seven-game homestand. When the Wine and Gold return victorious from Michigan late Friday night, they don’t hit the road again until after the All-Star Break.

That’s just another reason why the month of February kicks the crap out of the month of January. Why, just look at how huge the date – February 1st – is compared to the dreary January dates we labored through last month.

On February 1 throughout history, the U.S. Supreme Court convened for the first time, Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment, the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary was published, the hilarious Canadian Mounties were born, the Greensboro sit-ins were staged, Roman Polanski skipped bail and Patty Hearst was released from jail.

JanetAnd if all that wasn’t enough, on this date in 2004 – during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII – Justin Timberlake assisted Janet Jackson with a “wardrobe malfunction,” exposing Daniel Gibson’s nickname and signaling the total collapse of moral integrity in American culture.

The incident resulted in countless financial repercussions. Viacom paid out $3.5 million to settle outstanding complaints and the FCC fined CBS a record $550,000 for an indecency violation. And in Farmington, Utah, a $5,000 small-claims lawsuit was filed by an attorney named Eric Stephenson who, as a father of three, claimed that pre-game advertising led him to believe that the halftime show would “consist of marching bands, balloons, and a patriotic celebration.”

Speaking of balloons and celebrations, February 1 – as we might expect – is also loaded with some totally mint Birthdays.

Rick JamesTo wit: there’s Billy Mumy, who played “Will Robinson” on Lost in Space and Michael C. Hall, who plays “Dexter” on Dexter. There’s Clark Gable and Boris Yeltsin. And how could we forget the late, great Rick James, who recorded million-sellers like “Give It to Me Baby” and “Superfreak” and who once ground his filthy boots into Eddie Murphy’s white suede couch.

And we also have some local sports legends to celebrate, including former Tribe reliever, Ernie “Macho” Camacho, who saved 23 games for the Tribe in 1984. From a Cavaliers perspective, there’s now-40-year-old Andrew DeClercq, the dearly-departed Robert “Tractor” Traylor, and North Canton native, Dick Snyder – who, in the spring of 1976, went glass with four seconds to play to knock off the Washington Bullets in Game 7 of “The Miracle of Richfield.”

Last week, our Current Events segment was almost hijacked by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un – who recently defied international pressure and basic common decency by A. carrying out long-range nuclear missile tests, and B. smoking a cigarette while inspecting a hospital in Pyongyang.

This week, it’s the West’s other problem child – Iran – once again acting the fool and giving the international community a case of agida. But at least they know how to be entertaining about it for the sake of Current Events.

Not to be outdone by North Korea, this past week, Iran claimed to have successfully shot a monkey into space.

MonkeyNational television showed the grey primate in a spacesuit being strapped into a pod, and later reports claimed that the rocket Pishgam had reached a height of 72 miles before returning to Earth.

But Iran Defense Ministry video purporting the animal’s welcome home showed the monkey without a distinctive mole and tufts of his white hair had turned brown. Now, there’s international speculation that the capsule never returned to Earth or that the monkey didn’t survive or that the launch never actually happened at all.

Nice try, Iran.

The key here isn’t simply launching chimps into space. Any advanced nation can do that! Heck, America could launch primates into the air until we were blue in the face. It’d be raining space-monkeys!

But we’re talking about SUCCESSFUL space missions, Mssr Ahmadinejad.

What type of animal Hugo Chavez is planning to shoot up into space next week is anyone’s guess. It’ll be tough to top Iran, unless he fires up that orangutan, Clyde, from “Any Which Way But Loose.”

Either way, when it comes back down, we’ll be here to discuss it in News … Around … The … League. As for now, we’ve got the wide, wide world of sports to deal with …

All in the Family – Yes, the Cavaliers won three in a row earlier this week and Kyrie Irving was named the Eastern Conference’s best player during it. And we also learnt that three of Kyrie’s teammates will be joining him for All-Star Weekend. Life is good in Cavalierland.

But it doesn’t stop there. Oh no.

Alex JensenBecause the Cavaliers’ younger brother and ice skating cousins are also faring quite well in their respective circuits.

Take the Canton Charge, a team that’s tied for the most wins in the NBADL.

Even with Wednesday’s loss to Erie, since December 28, the Charge has won 11 of their last 14 contests, including a two-game sweep at the D-League Showcase in Reno. Alex Jensen’s squad plays some of the stingiest D in the D-League and features All-Optimist D-League First Teamer and Strong Island’s own, Antroine Agudio.

If you can’t make it to The Q for Saturday’s contest with the Thunder, check out the Charge at the Canton Memorial Civic Center – where they’ll welcome Luke Harangody and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. If you can’t make it to the arena, check out silken-voiced Scott Zurilla and the call on NBA.Com/DLeague: click on the Canton vs. Ft Wayne tile at the top of the screen.

If you can’t do any of those three things, you’re a total lost cause. Stop reading this column right now.

MonstersIf you’re still here, not only do you have the option of Cavaliers and Charge basketball this weekend, but another choice includes Monsters hockey. Make that – first-place Monsters hockey.

The Monsters topped the Abbotsford Heat on Thursday night to take over first place in the North Division. And the two squads drop the mitts again on Friday night. It’s dollar dog-and-soda night, there’s a post-game skate and you get a chance to watch an All-Star like Andrew Agozzino up-close-and-personal.

I think our family has you covered for the weekend.


Super Bowling – As a dyed-in-the-wool pigskin fan, it kills me that I barely care who wins this year’s Super Bowl.

Normally, I like the 49ers. But these aren’t the Joe Montana-Jerry Rice-Ronnie Lott Niners. Jim Harbaugh is a great coach, but he seems like a jerk. I do, however, like that he makes his team hang out in Youngstown one week each season.

So I’ll hold my nose and root for San Francisco this Sunday.

I shan’t – nor never shall – be rooting for the Baltimore Ravens. And the reasons are all too clear.

Art ModellThe day before the Super Bowl, Art Modell is once again eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If he’s voted in – and I have a feeling this is the year it happens – I’ll never set foot in the building again.

I won’t get overly vitriolic here. I’ll just go scoreboard, especially for those who think pro football was invented when Ray Lewis started playing it …

Art Modell fired the greatest and most innovative football coach of all-time, ran the best ballplayer of all-time into early retirement, ran one of the league’s proudest franchises into the ground and moved it out of the city.

On Art’s side of the ledger, he won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2000 and got football and television together – as if no other owner could have possibly fought that tidal wave of adversity and gotten a deal like that done.

Every year, my friends from out of town and I make the pilgrimage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and then the incredibly awesome Hot Dog Shoppe in Warren. If Art Modell gets his horrific bust in Canton, I’ll never go back.

Hot Dog ShoppeWe’ll adjust. Maybe we’ll go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – (even though they haven’t put Judas Priest or KISS in yet) – before heading down the Hot Dog Shoppe in Warren. (Art Modell could never stop the Hot Dog Shoppe. Nothing can.)

Because I don’t want to leave you with my anti-Art venom, I’m going to quickly shift gears before we split.

The Gods of Innovation have created something that combines three fantastic activities: 1. Helping out a worthwhile cause, while 2. Running around in your underpants, while 3. hanging out with girls running around in their underpants, going: “Wooooooooooo!!!!!”

But thanks to the folks who organized the Cupid’s Undie Run, to be held on Saturday, February 16. The Undie Run, which starts at 2:30 p.m., is a one-miler, with proceeds going to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

I’m not sure if you can still register a team, but you can still Give Hope and donate by clicking HERE.

UndieI’m unable to run in the event, as that will be during All-Star Weekend. But I did see some members of the Cavalier family running in the event available for sponsorship. (Any ladies looking to contribute might want to consider Pete Lesko – who’s probably the Greek Ideal in a pair of skivvies.)

Pre- and post-race festivities will be held at The Southside on West 11th in Tremont. Even if you can’t register, nobody’s going to stop you from independently running around half-naked on a freezing February afternoon.

That’s all for today, knuckaheads.

If you’re following the Optimist Fiscal Calendar, the New Year actually starts on Monday. The next big date – the beginning of Spring – is three-way optional this year: St. Practice Day (March 16), St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) or the first day of March Madness (March 20).

If you’re having drinks this weekend, don’t forget to call a cab or get a designated driver. Tomorrow You will thank Last Night You.

Go in peace, and always remember to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Best Wishes,
The Optimist